Balancing cost with want and need
To French Immersion supporters the evidence is overwhelming. Research shows bilingualism helps students gain cognitive, academic and employment benefits. There is evidence that it increases mental agility, stimulates the brain and can delay onset of Alzheimer’s. It also opens employment doors nationally and overseas.
News, therefore, that the junior high French Immersion program is being suspended has provoked dismay and alarm, if not outright shock.
The Canadian Parents for French, Barrhead Chapter, say hints about possible closure have been dropping for a while amid reports of projected low enrolment for 2012-13.
The school argues the suspension decision was based on the fact just 11 students signed up for Grade 7 and 8 classes.
Of course, it’s all too easy to point a finger at educators and wonder how they could cut a program that offers the only speciality schooling option at BCHS.
Yet for those responsible for allocating resources, the challenge is to provide the best education for all students. It is an unenviable task, with so many competing interests.
BCHS principal David Garbutt makes a compelling argument when he says students are the drivers of education. Nobody should or can force-feed children a subject outside the core curriculum. Diverting funds to propping up a struggling program means that some other aspect of schooling will suffer.
The danger, however, is that by suspending the program the school becomes guilty of a self-fulfilling prophecy, unwittingly driving students away, making it increasingly remote that the program can be resurrected. Suspension sends the signal that the school is not committed to the program and is merely guided by budgetary guidelines at a time when figures suggest enrolment will bounce back modestly next year.
As BCHS board awaits the impact of the decision, it should reflect that education is not just about managing resources. It is not just about students’ wants. It is also about balancing costs with need and what is in children’s best interests.
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